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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
Toaster
by Charles Strite in 1919.

TOASTER
AT A GLANCE:

During World War I, a master mechanic in a plant in Stillwater, Minnesota decided to do something about the burnt toast served in the company cafeteria. To circumvent the need for continual human attention, Charles Strite incorporated springs and a variable timer, and filed the patent application for his pop-up toaster on May 29, 1919. He intended the device would be sold to the restaurant trade.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
VIDEOS
WEB SITES
WHERE TO FIND
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: toaster (pop-up) in 1919
Toastmaster Model 1-A-1 image courtesy www.toaster.org
Definition: noun / toast·er   
Function: A mechanical device used to toast bread, especially by exposure to electrically heated wire coils.Toasted bread is called toast.
Patent: 1,394,450 (US) issued October 18, 1921
Inventor: Charles P. Strite
Charles Strite photo courtesy www.toastercentral.com
Criteria; First practical..Modern prototype.
Birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nationality: American
Milestones:
1905 Albert Marsh discovered Nichrome the filament wire needed to toast bread
1906 George Schneider applied for a patent for his version of the electric toaster. It is never built.
1909 General Electric introduces their first electric toaster for the home. Invented by Frank Shailor
1913 Hazel and Lloyd Copeman apply for toaster patents
1913 Copeman Electric Stove Company introduced toaster with automatic bread turner
1914 Westinghouse introduces electric toaster for the home. Under license of Copeman patents
1919 Charles Strite invents a automatic pop-up bread toaster and applies for a patent
1921 Waters Genter Co. formed to manufacture Strite's toaster and market it to restaurants.
1921 Two of Strite's patent application are approved
1926 Strite file patent application for his design for a home toaster
1926 Waters Genter Co introduce their first electric toaster for the home under the Toastmaster name
1926 Max McGraw purchased Waters Genter Co. and the Toastmaster brand
1928 first mechanical pre-sliced bread goes on sale to the public in Chillicothe, Missouri
1929 Patent 1,698,146 issued to Strite for the automatic pop-up toaster for home use
1930 Wonder Bread begins selling pre-sliced bread, most bakeries follow suit
1933 toaster sales skyrocketed, thanks to the standardized size of sliced bread
toaster, pop-up toaster pop up toaster, electric toaster, home appliance, Charles Strite, Hazel and Lloyd Copeman, Frank Shailor, George Schneider Albert Marsh, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Retrieved from The Great Idea Finder. www.ideafinder.com
Electric toasters have been in existence for less than 100 years. Yet, people have been consuming bread for the past 6,000 years, and people have been toasting bread since the time of the Romans. Toasting bread makes it crunchier and preserves it, an especially important characteristic for early civilizations. Before the advent of the electric toaster, bread was toasted over an open fire with the help of a variety of simple tools. Toasting bread does more than just preserve it, of course, it changes its nature; bread becomes sweeter, crunchier and the perfect surface on which to spread all sorts of things.

The toaster represents the crest of one wave of technological innovation, it began with a huge effort to electrify the nation. Once homes were wired this created a demand for household appliances, one of which was the toaster.

Even after electricity was introduced to homes across America, the electric toaster was still not a feasible invention. Because the surface of toast needs to be heated to temperatures above 310 degrees Fahrenheit, electric toasters must contain wires with the ability to reach very high temperatures without becoming damaged or starting a fire. Such a wire would have many uses, aside from application to an electric toaster. Therefore, many companies strove to discover it. By March of 1905, an engineer named Albert Marsh discovered that an alloy of nickel and chromium, known as Nichrome, had the properties of the sought after wire.

Shortly after Marsh's discovery, an employee of the American Electric Heater Company named George Schneider applied for a patent for his version of the electric toaster. In the next several years, there were already several people and companies working to develop their own versions of the toaster.

There must have been a number of prototype electric toasters made by companies and garage inventors alike in these early years, but it wasn't until 1909 that the first successful electric toaster was produced. In July, 1909, Frank Shailor of General Electric submitted his patent application for the D-12, considered the first commercially successful electric toaster.

Lloyd Copeman and his wife, Hazel, were window-shopping one day in 1913 and they were looking at an electric toaster displayed in a store window. The normal way a toaster worked at the time was to place the bread on a rack facing the heated electric coils. When the bread was toasted on one side, it was flipped by hand for the toasting of the other side. The story goes that Hazel, turned to her husband and said, “Lloyd, couldn’t you invent a toaster that would automatically turn the toast?” There must be some truth to this as the toaster patent was issued to Hazel B. Copeman in 1914. This was the first toaster that allowed the toast to be “turned” without touching the bread. It was called the “Automatic ” toaster. The Copeman's, both Hazel and Lloyd were issued five toaster related patents during 1914.

Many companies who wished to produce electric toasters were forced to pay royalties to Copeman or find a different way to “turn the toast”. Some swung the toast around in little baskets. Another toaster carried the bread past the heating elements on a little conveyer belt, toasting it as it traveled along.

As with the electric stove, the first Westinghouse toasters were identical in every way to the Copeman toaster other than carrying the Westinghouse name and the words “Copeman Patents” on the nameplate.

In the decade following the invention of the toaster, toasters sparked a great deal of public interest, and a variety of toaster models were produced. During World War I, a master mechanic in a plant in Stillwater, Minnesota decided to do something about the burnt toast served in the company cafeteria. To circumvent the need for continual human attention, Charles Strite incorporated springs and a variable timer, and filed the patent for his pop-up toaster on May 29, 1919. He intended the device would be sold to the restaurant trade.

Charles P. Strite, born in Minneapolis, MN, received patent on October 18, 1921 for the bread-toaster. That same year Strite formed the Waters Genter Company to manufacture his toaster and market it to restaurants. Receiving financial backing from friends, Strite oversaw production of the first one hundred hand-assembled toasters, which were shipped to the Childs restaurant chain.

In 1926, using a redesigned version of Strite's toaster, the first automatic pop-up toaster was introduced by the Waters-Genter Company, which was eventually acquired into the Edison electric empire  The amazing device was called the "Toastmaster," and bearing a triple-loop logo inspired by its heating elements, it heralded the modern age of kitchen appliances. The name and the logo endure in the 21st century, having survived many corporate transitions to itself become the name of the corporation. By the end of 1926 Charles Strite's Toastmaster was available to the public and was a huge success.

The next major breakthrough for the toaster came in 1928. Prior to then, the local bakery sold bread in loaves. But Otto Frederick Rohwedder, an inventor changed the history by creating the presliced-loaf and sealed-bag process. The Continental Baking Company altered the course of bread forever in 1930 when it introduced sliced Wonder Bread. Sales were slow at first as suspicious consumers were slow to accept a pre-sliced bread, but convenience overruled apprehension and soon everyone wanted sliced Wonder Bread on their dinner table.

By 1933, only five years after the bread slicer's introduction, American bakeries were turning out more sliced than unsliced bread. This gave a boost to another new invention: Charles Strite's spring-loaded, automatic, pop-up toaster which had been languishing on the shelves since 1926. With Rohwedder's standardized slices on the market, Strife's invention suddenly made sense. The automatic (pop-up) toaster becomes a standard in American households

The Charles Strite home toasters produced in 1926 are not very different from the toasters that can be found in many homes today. By the 1960's, the toaster was common enough and cheap enough that they were available to virtually every middle class family in America. By the 1980's the slots of toasters grew, enabling bagels and wider bread to be toasted. Additionally, heat-resistant plastic and microchip controls were used in the making of the toaster, making it even more economical and efficient than ever before.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of the Bread Slicer   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder 

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
Toasters (Household History)
by Elaine Marie Alphin / Library Binding: 48 pages / Carolrhoda Books (February, 1998)
Readers curious about the mechanics of toasters will learn the details of how plain bread is transformed into warm and nourishing breakfast food through the magic of trip plates, timer strips, and browning controls.
Toasters 1909-1960: A Look at the Ingenuity and Design of Toaster Makers (Limited availability)
by E. Townsend Artman / Paperback: 176 pages / Schiffer Publishing (March, 1996)
Mr. Artman has compiled a fascinating book. Painstakingly researched, light-hearted presentation. Very enjoyable reading.
The Housewares Story (Limited availability)
by Earl Lifshey / ISBN: B00005W36M

ON THE SCREEN:
Digi-tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
See how the computing capacity of World-War II era room-sized computers is now surpassed by hand-held devices; visit Zenith to see a side-by-side comparison of regular television and HDTV; discover how a Cold War era NASA program is transforming personal photography, and get the inside story about MP3s.

Household Wonders  
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
HOUSEHOLD WONDERS tells the story of seven taken-for-granted inventions that make modern life comfy, fast and clean: the stove, sewing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, toaster and mixer.


ON THE WEB:

Toaster History
In the decade following the invention of the toaster, toasters sparked a great deal of public interest, and a variety of toaster models were produced. Then, in 1919 the toaster was improved dramatically by Charles Strite's invention of the automatic or pop-up toaster.
(URL:www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Engineering_Graphics/_EG2001/toasterama/toasterhistory.html)
Household Appliance
The toaster represents the crest of one wave of technological innovation that brought us sliced bread. It began with a huge effort to electrify the nation. Once homes were wired this created a demand for household appliances, one of which was the toaster. Article by William S. Hammack
(URL: www.engineerguy.com/comm/4263.htm)

Patent for Bread-Toaster Issued October 18, 1921
The automatic (pop-up) toaster becomes a standard in American households. Charles P. Strite, received patent #1,394,450 on October 18, 1921 for the bread-toaster.
(URL: www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/01-46.htm)
Toastmaster - A History With Dates
Charles Strite applies for a patent for the first automatic pop-up toaster, which was intended to be sold to the restaurant trade.
(URL: www.toaster.org/tmaster_history.html)
Copeman Automatic Toast Turner
Many companies who wished to produce electric toasters were forced to pay royalties to Copeman or find a different way to “turn the toast”. Toastmaster ended the long search for a better way to toast bread with the advent of the “pop-up” toaster.
(URL: www.lloydcopeman.com/biography/bio3.html)

Toaster Success
There must have been a number of prototype electric toasters made by companies and garage inventors alike in these early years, but it wasn't until 1909 that the first successful electric toaster was produced. Article by Eric Norcross, 1997
(URL: www.toaster.org/1900.html)
More Sliced Bread Means More Toasters Sold
By 1933, only five years after its introduction, American bakeries were turning out more sliced than unsliced bread. This gave a boost to another new invention: Charles Strite's spring-loaded, automatic, pop-up toaster which had been languishing on the shelves since 1926. With Rohwedder's standardized slices on the market, Strife's invention suddenly made sense
(URL:
www.takeourword.com/TOW157/page2.html)
Collectable Toasters
Toaster Central is the place to find and buy vintage and collectible kitchen appliances by Sunbeam, Toastmaster, Dominion, Kenmore, Toastswell, Westinghouse, General Electric, Manning-Bowman, Universal and other makers from the Golden Age of chrome and bakelite.
(URL: www.toastercentral.com/)
Toaster: One slice fits all in Minnesota  
Strite's invention was so universally accepted that within four years, toaster-friendly packaged sliced bread -- starting with the Wonder Bread label -- became the best thing to come along since, well, sliced bread.
(URL: archives.openflows.org/electronetwork-l/msg00294.html)
Important & Interesting Patents
June 1913 - Aug. 1914 Hazel Copeman combines the Wiltsie slice-turning door with the El Tosto percher frame (as well as with those of the Simplex T211 and G.E. D-12) in perhaps the most important toaster patent of all.
(URL: www.toaster.org/patent.html)
Toaster Museum
This is one of the most important pieces in the history of toasters: A very rare original Copeman (not the later version from Westinghouse, who produced the toaster under license of Copeman!!!). It is the first toaster with a turn-over mechanism.
(URL: toastermuseum.com/)

National Museum of Science and Technology
The largest museum of its kind in Canada devoted to Science and Technology education.
Most early electric toasters were not enclosed; instead, the bread rested on a wire frame on either side and in close proximity to the vertical heating element.
(URL: www.science-tech.nmstc.ca)

WHERE TO FIND:
Toastmaster 2-Slice Promo Toaster
Kitchenware / by Toastmaster /
ASIN: B00006IV04 / Model number: 334871 / Less than $12.00
Widest, longest, deepest slots available compared to other side-by-side toasters. Electronic timer, Patented automatic safety shut-off, Hinged crumb tray,.

HOW IT WORKS:
The toaster seems like a pretty simple device, but some questions do come up: How, exactly, does the toaster toast the bread? How do all of the different settings work? How does the toaster know when to pop the toast up? In this article, we'll dissect a typical pop-up toaster to answer all of these questions and more!  Presented by How Stuff Works lots of COOKIES and POP-UP ADS.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The process of scorching bread to preserve it spread through many cultures. The word toast comes from the Latin Torrere, Tostum - to scorch or burn.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised April 27, 2007.
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